Rocking in Gwangju with Wasted Johnnys

Photos courtesy of Wasted Johnnys

DoIndie, a bilingual webzine dedicated to supporting and spreading the word about independent Korean music, is at it again, bringing a small slice of the thriving music scene in Seoul south to Gwangju. Previously, DoIndie had organized a show at Speakeasy featuring the indie bands Rough Cuts, 57, and Nametag way back in September. In further efforts to bring alternative music to venues outside of Seoul, another live show is slated for February 18, featuring Wasted Johnnys.

Wasted Johnnys is a band based in Seoul that describes itself as being a “strong cocktail of blues-based rock and roll with a grunge grit.” The members are Angie, the vocalist and a guitarist, Kim Young-jin on drums, the guitarist Baek Seon-hyuk, and the bassist Chung Yoon-gyum. Gwangju News was able to speak briefly with Angie about the music scene, both in Seoul and Gwangju.

How did you all come together to make Wasted Johnnys?

We used to be a three-piece band, with Nills Germain, Kim Young-jin, and myself, for about four years. We decided to add one more guitar position, Seon-hyuk, last year. However, we switched members last autumn, when our bassist changed due to problems with Nills’ school. We met Yoon-gyum as a replacement, and now we are ready to go!

How did you first get interested in rock music, and how is the Korean rock music scene developing these days?

I liked to listen to many bands through YouTube when I was in middle school, and I used to collect the CDs of my favorite groups. I began playing in a band, and I never stopped playing even in high school. I thought it was quite natural for me. Also, I am originally from Busan, and I had a lot of chances to look around and experience rock clubs. I always dreamed of making my own band, and so it is no coincidence that we gathered to form Wasted Johnnys.

The rock scene these days seems to be pretty minor, or familiar only to a small group of listeners, but despite this we still have many talented and fascinating bands in Korea. There are many good people involved in bands, clubs, and as listeners. I do not think they will stop maintaining this scene, but continue to help it grow and develop.


What do you think of the Gwangju music scene and other scenes outside of Seoul?

Actually, we want to ask this question to you! We only know two or more bands in Gwangju, and we are not familiar with the scene as of yet. And moreover, this is our first gig in Gwangju, too. However, we do not get too nervous about going to new places, but gain confidence and feel refreshed instead. I recall that our gigs in Daegu or Busan were cool, but I felt that there were relatively fewer people than in Seoul (especially Hongdae) who enjoy seeing rock band gigs, and that is what makes me frustrated.

Personally, it is true that no scenes are larger than those in Hongdae, and it is also a fact that even Hongdae is now suffering from many problems. We have lost too many live clubs because of economic difficulties. I know some friends that talk about their poor local environment. I fully understand, but I also think that we can make better solutions by using our local environment and talents’ unique color and characteristics. I believe there are many good event managers who have their own brilliant ideas about supporting band music, and we have lots of bands who would take to the stage as well.

Neighborhoods can easily ignore certain aspects of the local culture, such as music or the lives of band members. But think, it should be the opposite! Local bands completely have the potential to be an icon for their home or neighborhood, unless we give up. Let’s not be frustrated, and make our dreams come true. Wasted Johnnys is always ready to rock with you.

What is it like to play in Gwangju and other cities, and what is your favorite part about playing at a show?

It is a little bit hard to move around to other cities (like when we are on tour), but it is okay. We make new friends at the places that we have never been to before. I love my shows though; going into madness. I like the moment when I share these feelings with my fellow band members, and the audience. It is very strange that I cannot stop singing and playing guitar, even when everybody goes crazy on the stage.

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